On May 16,
the Boston Herald published a column by John Silber entitled
under Seattle stars. Silber viciously attacked the
Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board and the newly state
College of Astrological Arts and Sciences, which is now completing
its first academic year of operation.
the original article in the Boston Herald
President of Kepler College
the Board of Trustees of Kepler
Response from AFAN
Response by Gary Lorentzen
Learn more about
An Open Letter
to John Silber, the Boston Herald and Boston University:
to his biography
from the Boston University website, John Silber is "the Chancellor
of Boston University, an internationally recognized authority on ethics,
on the philosophy of law, and on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant."
He is a Professor of Philosophy and Law and Professor of International
Relations. Apparently, even with all his academic credentials, Dr. Silber
forgot to research his topic before writing about it. Had Silber actually
done his homework, he would not have presented himself in such an ill-informed
and ignorant manner. This column is an academic embarrassment.
Unfortunately, the column
that appeared in the Boston Herald sheds
more light on its author than it does on Kepler College. This column does
more to damage the credibility of Dr. John Silber than Kepler College,
the target of his ignorant attack.
In the very
first paragraph, Silber shows how little he knows of Kepler's work. He
states that Kepler's "scientific achievements were not decisive in
making him the college's namesake," but that "his real attraction
is that he believed, to a limited extent, in astrology." I would
first of all recommend that Silber read Kepler's own defense of serious
astrology Tertius Interveniens, wherein Kepler cautions
scientists, when judging astrology, "from throwing the baby out with
that Kepler "lived in the last years when a great scientist could
believe in astrology." Perhaps I've missed something here. I thought
science was about seeking truth, not dictating what was believable. Astrology
does not require belief any more than does physics. It is simply a body
of information that is either valid or not valid. Remember, great scientists
of the 18th century believed that rocks couldn't fall from the sky because
there were no rocks in the sky to start with! We now accept the presence
on to liken Kepler's relationship to astrology as a weakness. I suggest
that it is Silber's rejection of astrology that is the weakness here.
It is Silber's inability to look at the facts that is his weakness. He
already "knows" that astrology is unbelievable, so he cannot
even do the research. Has he read any of the literature? If he were a
student at Kepler College, he would, by the completion of his freshman
year of study, have a sound historical basis from which to understand
the philosophical and scientific questions that he seems ill equipped
damage that is done by Dr. Silber is not, however, ridiculing astrology.
It is ridiculing the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board
without doing any research. Silber is offended that this board has used
the "power of law to make Kepler [College] the peer of the University
of Washington." I assume that in making this strong judgment of professional
educators, Dr. Silber read the Kepler College Catalog (available on its
website), studied the program's educational objectives and familiarized
himself with the course syllabi. If not, Dr. Silber has done himself and
the college he represents a great disservice.
on to claim "many in the public will recognize the state as certifying
not merely Kepler College but astrology itself." Does this mean,
Dr. Silber, that a licensed Bible college has state "certification"
of a particular denomination of religion? Of course not! The Washington
State Higher Education Coordinating Board did not "certify"
astrology. Its job is to certify the integrity of the educational process.
demonstrates an entirely new level of ignorance with respect to his understanding
of astrology when he writes it "is in fact a bizarre survival from
pre-scientific times." His justification for this statement is that
"its theories were worked out when people believed the Earth was
the center of the universe..." I have some grave news for the erudite
Dr. Silber. By his poor logic, algebra and geometry would also be "a
bizarre survival from pre-scientific times." Let's be clear about
this: these techniques also were worked out when people believed the Earth
was the center of the universe. What does this matter? That Silber thinks
modern astrology requires a pre-Copernican geocentric universe clearly demonstrates
he knows nothing of astrological principles. Nothing.
In the Boston
Herald article, Silber then goes on to describe what astrologers
do and how their charts cannot possibly show why people are similar or
different based upon their time of birth. I assume that, since Silber
is an academician, that he has read the literature. I assume he is familiar
with the volumes of statistical analysis around the work of Michel Gauqelin,
the French statistician who isolated the relationship between success
soldiers and the position of Mars at their birth. I assume that he has
read The Case for Astrology by John Anthony West. I would
also assume that he has spent time with the research publications from
the International Society for Astrological Research. If, after familiarizing
himself with the literature, he believes that astrology is "bunkum,"
I'm afraid he must present some data for his opinions. After all, that's
what science is about.
"The fact is that astrology, whether judged by its theory or its
practice, is bunkum." What does he know of astrological theory? And
how does he give himself the authority to judge astrological practice?
Silber claims it's "inexcusable for the government [Washington State
Higher Education Coordinating Board] to certify teachers of nonsense as
competent or to authorize—that is, endorse—the granting of degrees
in nonsense." I beg to differ. What is nonsense is assuming that
authority in international relations or in the philosophy of Kant is automatically
transferable to astrology.
to Dr. Silber, it is difficult to think how the State of Washington could "use its authority in a way more foolish and degrading
to real education." It is Silber who has used his authority foolishly.
He has degraded himself, his venerable institution of Boston University
and modern academia. He has cast his lot in favor of his irrational beliefs
and against truth.
final act of desperation is to link Kepler College and its newly earned
academic legitimacy with the hanging of witches in Massachusetts in 1692.
He says that the State of Washington should not be excused for their folly.
"They stand exposed as ignorant, foolish and contemptuous of the
public interest." What will stand exposed from this ill-conceived
attack on academic freedom and Kepler College by Dr. Silber will only
be Dr. Silber's own foolish and contemptuous ignorance.
astrology does not carry a "for entertainment only" disclaimer.
With or without Dr. Silber, we have moved into a new cultural relationship
with astrology that pushes our academic boundaries. Sciences are in the
state of revolution. Physics, once the hardest of hard-core science, has
now gone soft. Theoretical physicists are spiritual seekers. Biology has
moved beyond the mechanical as our modern medicine grapples with issues
of mind/body. Medical doctors and psychologists are integrating tools
like astrology into their practice. In these modern times, judging astrology
as nonsense demonstrates more about the observer than about the observed.
is not an aberration. It is not a foolish mistake of Washington State.
It is a symptom of the changing relationship between astrology, science
and philosophy. Dr. Silber has an opportunity before him. He can admit
that he spoke without knowledge and authority. He can, like a real academician,
read the available literature. Or he can hold his posture of intellectual
arrogance and stay in denial about the role of astrology in serious academic
Trustee, Kepler College
here to visit Kepler College on the net.